REVIEW | EOW ENGLAND 2018 – THE FINAL

After 5 incred­ible heats spread across Lon­don, Bris­tol and Brighton, End of the Weak England had found our 5 final­ists to com­pete to be crowned EOW England MC Chal­lenge cham­pi­on 2018 at Hootananny Brix­ton. But, to get there, the heat win­ners had to get through a lyr­ic­al man moun­tain who’d already held the title twice – last year’s EOW World Final bronze medal­list Gee Bag going for a hat-trick of con­sec­ut­ive domest­ic wins. Along­side the presti­ge of being EOW England champ was the chance to com­pete at the EOW World Finals in Par­is. Look­ing to build on the spec­tac­u­lar sold out 1000+ crowd and a week of con­stant fest­iv­it­ies laid out by EOW Prague, the EOW France fam have secured an epic arena for this year’s final. ‘La Place’ is lit­er­ally an arena 100% ded­ic­ated to Hip Hop cul­ture, with facil­it­ies includ­ing 8 stu­di­os for record­ing, DJing, video pro­duc­tion and more. To win this final was to win the oppor­tun­ity to per­form at France’s Hip Hop HQ. Adding to that, inter­na­tion­al super­star Thun­der­cat was in attend­ance, as were our EOW Bel­gi­um fam, and 2018 final­ist COI blessed us with an acapel­la of the highest order. The emcees were fully motiv­ated, res­ult­ing in a final to rival any oth­er we’ve had.

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So, the final­ists:

Broken Pen

South-East London’s Angolan/Portuguese FRSHRZ rep­pin’ Broken Pen shelled down the Empire Bar in Hack­ney with a crazy com­bo of energy, pre­cise flows and pure lyr­i­cism, mani­fes­ted in his A-Z allit­er­ated acapel­la that could hold it up to any oth­er ver­sion pre­vi­ously done

Wish

West coun­try don Wish had over­come the best com­pet­i­tion his diverse homet­own scene could pro­duce with his depth of con­tent and ver­sat­il­ity, shelling down all the styles DJ Snuff threw at him in the DJ vs MC round like it was a UK Bass show.

Huski88

Mas­ter keys player/punchline extraordin­aire Huskie88 was back in the final for a second year after over­power­ing some truly power­ful oppon­ents in fel­low 2017 final­ists Emerge MC and Watusi87 of RU1 Fam at Grow, Hack­ney. Huski88 was ser­i­ously focused on vic­tory, quot­ing Afro Samurai on social media, say­ing he’s ‘com­ing for the num­ber 2 head­band’ – if you know you know.

Feline

Tak­ing an unortho­dox route to the final, Feline was booked in to bring his rag­ga inspired flow to com­pete in Bris­tol, but had to pull out. He was so determ­ined to show his skills he trav­elled to Lon­don for the Con­greg­ate Brix­ton heat, where he defeated 2017 final­ist Men­ace Men­d­oza with his pure pos­it­iv­ity and double time fused rhyme pat­terns.

Gram­ski

The free­style slam poet secured a hard-won vic­tory in his nat­ive Brighton; a rowdy crowd, dif­fi­cult mic-sound qual­ity and then the heat being so close that it went to a tie break again­st Break-A-Bar cham­pi­on Hugh­dem. Gram­ski had fully earned his spot in the final, and was ready with his unique brand of cre­ativ­ity.

Gee Bag

The champ knows exactly what it takes to win this com­pet­i­tion, he’s done it for the last 2 year years in a row. The ques­tion here was if he’d have the focus and drive to do it for a 3rd time…or if someone would be able to out­shine him.

2U4A9513With the 6 fire emcees, Mas Law and Kissy K on host­ing duties, Snuff and Jazz T behind the decks and a rammed Hootananny dance­floor, the com­ple­tion was all set up for some mad­ness.

Round 1 – Writ­ten

The writ­ten round was as dope as it should be for a final. Broken Pen came out spit­tin’ rap­id­fire over ‘For­got about Dre’, wavy Wish star­ted with the man­tra ‘con­tent over flows’ mak­ing sure he was flex­ing his lyr­i­cism, tight and clear. Huski opened up with a call and respon­se about nev­er giv­ing up on your dreams (that he slipped up on a bit) before going into a char­ac­ter­ist­ic punch­line filled bar packed inside of some crazy flows. That level of energy was held up by Feline, who brought Rod­ney P and People’s Army clas­sic ‘Live Up’ instru­ment­al, with a vari­ety of flows and chants deliv­er­ing an uplift­ing mes­sage for people to ‘wake up’. 2U4A8558

Gram­ski came next and decided to per­form ‘Vil­lage of the Cra­zies’, the same track from his heat, a doc­u­ment­ary style ana­lys­is of Brighton’s drug fuelled under­belly. With the improved sound qual­ity he got his mes­sage across a lot bet­ter and a bet­ter respon­se. Then came Gee Bag, telling the crowd ‘I’m a per­former, this is my track, no instru­ment­al’ and then laid down his verse from ‘Anni­hil­ate’, the Sam Krats track he fea­tures on with El Da Sen­sei. His deliv­ery, crowd inter­ac­tion and stage pres­ence were that of a seasoned vet, and made him stand out over the oth­er com­pet­it­ors. The champ had taken the first round and set the level for the rest of the final.

Round 2 – Acapel­la

In reverse order, Gee Bag came back on stage with a chair he’d pulled from his goody gag, and sat down ready to address the crowd. Between dope punch­lines like ‘I’m an ori­gin­al with this know offi­cial2U4A8750 flow, all my haters can kiss my arse under the mistle­toe’, he left a few deep­er jew­els like, ‘now who gave you the right to crush beings, gold stolen from the world put into museums, des­pite what’s happened I’m down with a couple Europeans, Africa the moth­er­land has to place that I’m flee­ing’.
The crowd loved it, just like they loved what Gram­ski did next. In an attempt to reclaim let­ter com­bin­a­tions hijacked by racist groups, the slam poet rhymed a whole load of dif­fer­ent acronyms for the let­ters EDL in a spec­tac­u­lar way. With time left to go, he revis­ited one of the best verses we’ve ever seen in EOW England his­tory (from his 2017 heat per­form­ance) and broke down the mean­ing of what it is to be an MC in the same style. It was crazy!

Feline kept look­ing at the pos­it­iv­ity he lives, flow­ing about one­ness and the import­ance of Hip Hop as a uni­fy­ing for­ce. Huski kept with mon­ster lines; ‘It’s thun­der and light­ning when I’m writ­ing sutin’,yellow suit, white cape, bald head, those types of punches, total elim­in­a­tion is my writ­ing func­tion, [point­ing a Mas Law] you ain’t giv­ing me rap oppon­ents you’re provid­ing lunches’ (if you know about One Punch Man you know that’s a killer line!). He then packed in more IT and social media ref­er­ences than I’ve ever heard into the last few bars of his verse.

Wish came with more deep con­tent and killer rhyme pat­terns about grow­ing up in his ends and the obstacles there for youts deal­ing with that now. Broken Pen decided to redo his A to Z acapel­la from his heat. It’s a power­ful set of bars, but unfor­tu­nately it didn’t make the same impact, par­tially because a lot of us had heard it before and because with the stricter time lim­it he didn’t get through it all. It would have been dope to see him try a dif­fer­ent verse; I know he’s got some more fire in those rhyme books and memory banks.

Round 3 – Grab Bag

The Grab Bag round is very often the point where we start to see who’s tak­ing con­trol of the chal­lenge, and it was def­in­itely the case in this final. Feline, Wish and Broken Pen all help it up like heat win­ners should, no mis­takes, no chokes, and good lines. Huski took it a bit fur­ther, really going in, espe­cially when he pulled out a toi­let roll fol­lowed by toi­let bleach, and went into detail about bath­room dif­fi­culties and flush­ing. But Gee Bag and Gram­ski both took it to another level…2U4A8636

Before start­ing, Gee Bag pulled out a tie and blindfolded…BLINDFOLDED him­self! Not only would he not know what was com­ing out the bag, he had to fig­ure each item out by feel­ing them, all while free­styl­ing about them…and he did it…very fuck­ing well. The best lines where when he pulled out a sauce­pan and said he had a metal cap and when he pulled out a new jar of cof­fee and fingered the foil seal say­ing it was like a pussy!

Gram­ski treated the bag like it con­tained the mean­ing of life, and used each item to high­light a life les­son we can take from them:

  • Toi­let brush = clean up the shit life gives you, in your mind and in the world
  • Clown bowtie = don’t take life too ser­i­ously and have fun
  • Earli­er, Kissy had said Gram­ski doesn’t look like a typ­ic­al emcee so he dropped this line ‘Who are you? Who am I? I’m a fuck­ing rap­per mate, don’t believe me, I’ll wrap you up in fuck­ing gaf­fer tape’ when he pulled some out the bag
  • a star = reli­gions (ref­er­en­cing the nativ­ity star) are all sim­il­ar.

It was incred­ible, one of the best Grab Bag rounds I’ve seen.

Round 4 – DJ vs MC

Round four took a sim­il­ar pat­tern. With Jazz T on the decks, a brud­da with one of the deep­est and most var­ied music col­lec­tions I’ve ever known, the emcees were in for some ser­i­ous dif­fi­culty. Gee Bag kicked it off and did what he does, var­ied flows, a mix of writ­ten bars and genu­ine free­styles and dealt with everything Jazz sent him. Feline and Wish both did the same but with a bit less ease than Gee Bag, his exper­i­ence was start­ing to really show.2U4A9393

Huskis round was real inter­est­ing; it was this point where he lost the 2017 final, giv­ing up halfway though, so he saw this as a rematch with Jazz. Huski let Jazz know it, say­ing he want’s his hardest tracks, and Jazz gave them! Mixes of time sig­na­tures, jazzy loops and no tra­di­tion­al Hip Hop beats made it hard as fuck, but Huski got through the round and held it up.

Gram­ski did really well, his best lines came when he spot­ted the second mic, and star­ted spit­ting in twos ‘look at it mates it’s double, double; I’m I’m, in in, trouble, trouble’ – killed it. He mixed a vari­ety of flows to match the beats, even when Jazz was scratch­ing and kept him­self right up there with the chance to win.2U4A8543

Broken Pen’s was the best though. He star­ted spit­ting dope writ­tens over whatever Jazz sent him, and des­pite most people asso­ci­at­ing this round with free­style, it showed how ver­sat­ile the brud­das pen game is. Jazz wasn’t feel­ing it though; to find some­thing Pen couldn’t flow over, he star­ted to cut, mash­ing up the track he had on the deck, but Pen just took it in his stride, switch­ing to free­style and full on battled the DJ. It was a dope moment that I’m sure really put Broken Pen’s score up; he went in.

Round 5 – Cypher 

2U4A94364 bars 4 times; it was sim­ple for this cal­ib­re of emcee. Broken Pen and Wish leaned on writ­tens a bit, Feline and Gram­ski spat genu­ine free­styles and went in but Gee Bag really shone, rap­ping about Par­is in each of his sec­tions, put­ting in some French phrases and land­marks along the way. Huski, brought that in to
o half way, with his best bar being about going to Dis­neyland to move to Dis­ney prin­cesses!

It was a dope end to a dope final. All the emcees had done them­selves proud, but for me at this point, it was between Gee Bag and Gram­ski for the title.

Live Per­form­ances – Shun­aji and Lady San­ity

While the judges delib­er­ated and added up the totals, the Brix­ton crowd was blessed by per­form­ances 2U4A9502from 2 lyr­ic­al lion­esses Shun­aji and Lady San­ity. Shun­aji stepped u first, bring­ing an ill com­bin­a­tion of
soul­ful sung vocals and intro­spect­ive, obser­v­ant lyr­i­cism, all per­formed over beats that she trig­gers, edits a builds as she per­forms. After all the hype and testoster­one of the all-male EOW Final, the crowd really respon­ded to her energy and intim­ate stage pres­ence, fully enga­ging in and res­on­at­ing with her vibe. It was a dope per­form­ance from a tal­en­ted artist.

Lady San­ity man­aged to find a way to fuse both styles into her per­form­ance. The Birm­ing­ham emcee put 2U4A9689down some excep­tion­al rhyme pat­terns, vari­ous top­ics and straight bars over jazzy, soul­ful sounds provided by her 4-piece band. The tem­pos were mixed up between Boom Bap and 140 Grime style, and Lady San­ity rel­ished each beat, going in over everything and mak­ing a huge impact on the crowd.
This reached its max­im­um with the final track, a really unique ver­sion of Rage Again­st the Machines ‘Killing in the Name Of’, with San­ity spit­ting her own bars. The crowd went crazy, to the point it got played twice, and head­line act had shown why her repu­ta­tion is grow­ing round England and bey­ond.

The Decision

Like every chal­lenge we’ve had this sea­son, this final was close. Talk­ing to people around the ven­ue, it seemed that like me, Gee Bag and Gram­ski were most people’s favour­ites, and it did come down to these two mas­ter free­stylers. Huski88 was pro­nounced 3rd, repeat­ing what he’d man­aged to in the pre­vi­ous final, which is no small feat.

When the final decision was announced, the judges had decided that Gram­ski was in 2ndplace, mean­ing that Gee Bag had suc­cess­fully defen­ded his title for the 2ndtime and become the 3x EOW England cham­pi­on. He’d killed the writ­ten, grab bag and cypher round, as well as being con­sist­ently good in the oth­er 2, and while Gram­ski had also killed his grab bag and acapel­la, as well as being con­sist­ent, the judges felt Gee Bag had done enough to take the win. It might had been dif­fer­ent if Gram­ski hadn’t repeated his writ­ten from his heat, or some of his acapel­la from 2017…but we’ll nev­er know that; our 2018 EOW England Cham­pi­on, deservedly so, for a 3rdcon­sec­ut­ive time is Gee Bag, who’ll be going to Par­is on Octo­ber 27thand look to take the world title. He moved from 5thto 3rdspot last time…could he jump 2 place again?

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Stay locked to IAHH to find out, or even bet­ter COME TO PAR­IS!! Pre­s­ale tick­ets are only €8 and you get a lim­ited edi­tion EOW World Final T-shirt, as well the chance to see the best free­stylers in the world, from USA, England, Que­bec, Czech Repub­lic, Hol­land, Uganda, Switzer­land, France, Bel­gi­um, Togo and for the first time China. It’s going to be WILD!!!

For tick­ets head to: https://m.digitick.com/end-of-the-weak-world-finals-concert-la-place-paris-27-octobre-2018-css5-mobdigitick-pg101-ri5650669.html

for more info head to: https://www.facebook.com/events/628606280819921/ 

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All pho­to­graphy by Nadia Otshudi (@nadiaotshudi)

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Apex Zero

Apex Zero

Apex Zero is an emcee and beat maker who has been express­ing his anti-polit­ic­al views and extend­ing his work towards defin­ing, inspir­ing and cre­at­ing last­ing change through Hip Hop for over a dec­ade. Apex has been work­ing with grass­roots and mil­it­ant organ­isa­tions, edu­cat­ing him­self and oth­ers, organ­ising and build­ing towards over­turn­ing the oppress­ive mech­an­ism at large since his mid-teens, around the same time that he entered London’s under­ground Hip Hop scene as part of his crew, First and Last with his brother OMeza Omni­scient. Years of earn­ing respect and enhan­cing their repu­ta­tion, which lead to col­lab­or­a­tions and work­ing rela­tion­ships with many of the scenes most prom­in­ent artists and organ­isa­tions, mani­fes­ted in the Octo­ber 2013 release of Apex’s debut solo album ‘Real­ity Pro­vok­ing Lib­er­a­tion’. The 15 tracks of self-described ‘Neo-Hard­core Hip Hop’ gathered inter­na­tion­al acclaim from both fans and crit­ics, fur­ther enhan­cing Apex’s repu­ta­tion as one of the strongest and clearest voices in anti-polit­ic­al, ‘revolu­tion­ary’ Hip Hop in the UK. Based in Beijing, China since 2014, Apex has been trav­el­ling out­side of the UK, seek­ing new per­spect­ives and aim­ing at enhan­cing his out­look, explor­ing dif­fer­ent soci­et­ies, con­nect­ing with Hip Hop heads, act­iv­ists and schol­ars world­wide. Like his music, his writ­ing is often an exten­sion of his ideas and efforts to effect change in the world whil­st enhan­cing and elev­at­ing both the cul­ture of Hip Hop and the people who embody it.

About Apex Zero

Apex Zero
Apex Zero is an emcee and beat maker who has been expressing his anti-political views and extending his work towards defining, inspiring and creating lasting change through Hip Hop for over a decade. Apex has been working with grassroots and militant organisations, educating himself and others, organising and building towards overturning the oppressive mechanism at large since his mid-teens, around the same time that he entered London’s underground Hip Hop scene as part of his crew, First and Last with his brother OMeza Omniscient. Years of earning respect and enhancing their reputation, which lead to collaborations and working relationships with many of the scenes most prominent artists and organisations, manifested in the October 2013 release of Apex’s debut solo album ‘Reality Provoking Liberation’. The 15 tracks of self-described ‘Neo-Hardcore Hip Hop’ gathered international acclaim from both fans and critics, further enhancing Apex’s reputation as one of the strongest and clearest voices in anti-political, ‘revolutionary’ Hip Hop in the UK. Based in Beijing, China since 2014, Apex has been travelling outside of the UK, seeking new perspectives and aiming at enhancing his outlook, exploring different societies, connecting with Hip Hop heads, activists and scholars worldwide. Like his music, his writing is often an extension of his ideas and efforts to effect change in the world whilst enhancing and elevating both the culture of Hip Hop and the people who embody it.